Santa Cruz, CA Business Section Fire, Apr 1894

Santa Cruz CA 1894 fire.jpg Santa Cruz CA  Pacific Avenue fire.jpg


Santa Cruz, Cal., April 15. -- The great conflagration of last night and this morning reduced to ashes twenty-four buildings in the heart of the city and caused a loss of over $255,000, with less than $100,000 insurance.
One block, reduced to ashes, is bounded by Pacific Avenue, Cooper and Grand Streets, and contained some of the finest buildings in the city, occupied by lawyers, bankers and merchants. The business district is across from the Pacific Ocean house. The fire was of incendiary origin, and was first discovered at 10:40 o'clock Saturday night, when an alarm was rung in, but the firemen could not obtain a supply of water from the hydrants. The city's mains had broken Saturday afternoon, and the water had been shut off from the reservoir, three miles from the town. Private hydrants were soon tapped, but the force was not sufficient to do any work, and it was not until 12 o'clock that the city's mains were once more opened. The water supply was then sufficient, but as Santa Cruz had not a fire engine to force the water through the hose, the streams were ineffectual. The fire started in HARRY RICHARDSON'S store, at the corner of Cooper and Front Streets.
A north wind was blowing, and this helped the flames, which had by this time fastened on GEORGE STAFFORD'S building and were slowly eating their way toward the Pacific house.
The building burned with great rapidity and the flames from the buildings on Cooper Street threw showers of sparks on the dome of the city court-house, which soon ignited and burned to the ground, nothing being left but the four walls to mark the place where the structure stood. Chinatown, fifty frame shanties, caught and burned like tinder. The Chinamen saved some of their effects, but nearly all their lifelongings were consumed. Major Jeter, fearing that the whole business portion of the town would be reduced to ashes, telegraphed to San Jose for assistance. Although San Jose is seventy-five miles distant a steamer arrived from there in one hour's time and gave valuable assistance. Watsonville also sent a steamer, and it was largely due to this fact that the fire did not spread over more territory. While the fire was raging at its height one of the great three-story bricks fell in, causing a panic among the people on the street, who barely escaped injury. At 4:30 the fire was under control and Santa Cruz breathed more easily.
The burned district today presented a picture of devastation. Smouldering ruins are being watched by guards to prevent another outbreak.
The county officials made good use of their time when the courthouse cupola was burning, and carried off all their books and assesment rolls to places of safety.
HOFFMAN'S real estate office, McKINNEY & Co., LOUVRE saloon, justice court, LEONARD'S block, saloon, city bank and law offices, Pilot hose company, SOTNING block (three stories), WAGNER building and SIMPSON building were burned. Crossing Cooper Street the courthouse was entirely consumed. Chinatown was likewise destroyed. The fire was stopped at the PEASE block, which was badly damaged.
The total loss is estimated at $300,000; insurance estimated at $58,000.

Galveston Daily News Texas 1894-04-16